George Lucas has long expressed muted indifference to the direction Disney has taken his iconic Star Wars franchise. There’s the occasional “I really liked it” or a nod to how “beautifully made” the new movies are, but the filmmaker has kept his stronger opinions close to the chest. Now, Disney CEO Bob Iger has revealed in his new memoir how Lucas really felt when the studio presented him with The Force Awakens.
It’s no secret that when Lucas approved of Disney’s takeover of Lucasfilm, he included story treatments for the trilogy he envisioned closing out the Skywalker saga. There was a lot of wacky stuff about immortal Whills and in depth exploration of the microscopic midichlorians, things Lucas readily admitted fans who didn’t like the prequels would have “hated.” Though Iger and the studio purchased the outlines, they made it very clear there was no obligation to actually use any of the ideas.
Unfortunately, Lucas apparently assumed the new Star Wars caretakers would stick to his plans anyway. In the end, writer/director J.J. Abrams, screenwriter Michael Arndt, and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy chose to ignore what Lucas had laid out, and that didn’t sit well with the creator of the galaxy far, far away. When Iger and that trio met with him at Skywalker Ranch to talk about The Force Awakens, Lucas immediately felt “betrayed.” As Iger wrote in his memoir (via Esquire),
“George immediately got upset as they began to describe the plot and it dawned on him that we weren’t using one of the stories he submitted during the negotiations… George knew we weren’t contractually bound to anything, but he thought that our buying the story treatments was a tacit promise that we’d follow them, and he was disappointed that his story was being discarded. I’d been so careful since our first conversation not to mislead him in any way, and I didn’t think I had now, but I could have handled it better.”
Things didn’t improve once the film was released, either. Not only was Lucas perturbed that they hadn’t used any of his new ideas, but he was disappointed they’d simply rehashed his old ones. Iger wrote,
“In each of the films in the original trilogy, it was important to [Lucas] to present new worlds, new stories, new characters, and new technologies. In this one, he said, ‘There weren’t enough visual or technical leaps forward.’ He wasn’t wrong, but he also wasn’t appreciating the pressure we were under to give ardent fans a film that felt quintessentially Star Wars.”
That over-reliance on nostalgia and fan-service has been the sort of criticism many have hung their lightsabers on, even those who generally enjoyed Force Awakens. Lucas himself alluded to as much during an interview around the film’s 2015 release: “…Ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, ‘We want to make something for the fans.’”
It’s true that The Last Jedi at least took some more risks and added new aspects to the Star Wars mythology (hi, Porgs!), but hopefully the forthcoming The Rise of Skywalker can find the balance that’s been missing from the new trilogy. We’ll find out when the film hits theaters on December 20th.
Star Wars fans also have Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian series, the Rogue One prequel show with Diego Luna, and the Ewan McGregor-starring Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off to look forward to. All three are coming to the new Disney+ streaming service, with Mandalorian debuting on the November 12th launch day. Meanwhile, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are also working on a new film trilogy set to kick off in 2022.